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DODGERS NOTEBOOK: IZTURIS ADJUSTS TO RIGHT HIS LEFT.

Byline: Brian Dohn Staff Writer

The Dodgers are in a stretch of facing six right-handed starters in a row, which means switch-hitting shortstop Cesar Izturis is in the midst of batting left-handed six consecutive games.

That could prove troublesome for the bottom part of the Dodgers' lineup because the area of Izturis' game that needs the most help is his batting from the left side, which remains a work in progress.

``(Izturis) thought he looked the same left-handed as he does right-handed, and he doesn't,'' Dodgers batting coach Jack Clark said. ``He actually is swinging the bat much better left-handed since he changed his grip a little bit. He has much more control of the barrel of his bat. He really likes it. His batting practice has improved greatly.''

Izturis already impressed teammates with his sure-handed fielding, composure and maturity beyond his 23 years, but there is a noticeable difference in his two sides at the plate. He was hitting .329 and bats leadoff against left-handed pitchers but was hitting .219 and batting eighth against right-handers.

To combat his struggles against right-handers, Clark suggested Izturis change his grip to a Bill Madlock-style, keeping his hands slightly separated, when batting left-handed.

``He knows he wants to be better and he knows there's more right-handers than there are left-handers, so he's going to bat more from the left side,'' Clark said. ``At the same time, he's a good right-handed hitter. If at some point the decides not to hit left-handed anymore, I think he can be a successful right-handed hitter against right-handers. But I wouldn't give up on his left-handed yet. He's going to get bigger and get better.''

Izturis began switch-hitting when he signed with Toronto in 1997, and he actually batted six points higher from the left side (.276 to .270) in his final three years of minor-league ball. However, he always has felt more comfortable from the right side.

``I think it's patience,'' Izturis said. ``From the right side, I think about hitting the ball up the middle. From the left side, I try to pull. I have to try and hit it through the middle.''

One thing the Dodgers love is Izturis' fielding. Even though he slumped in May and was batting .251, he is second among National League shortstops with a .982 fielding percentage.

--Beltre benched: Slumping third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is 1 for 13 on the homestand and fresh off a pair of poor at-bats in Tuesday's loss, got a seat on the bench as manager Jim Tracy looks to break him out of his slump.

After batting .304 with 12 strikeouts in April, Beltre batted .207 in May and is batting .208 this month. Beltre, who missed one other game, struck out 20 times in May and has nine already this month.

Tracy also juggled Beltre in the order trying to get him back on track, but nothing has worked. Beltre has batted everywhere but first, fourth and ninth.

``We tried all the other different avenues and we've been down all of them, and now I think it's important that we do it this way,'' Tracy said. ``I told him I was going to give him the day off. He said, 'I just had one Monday.' I said, 'You need one today.' ''

Beltre, who hasn't talked to the media for more than two weeks, declined comment. Dave Hansen started his second game at third base, but Tracy said he planned to start Beltre today.

``You just get to the point where it's your job to take the bull by the horns and get him away from the action,'' Tracy said. ``Nothing really positive is coming out of it right now.''

--Remembering Buck: News of St. Louis Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck's death hit several members of the Dodgers clubhouse particularly hard, including left fielder Brian Jordan and Clark.

Jordan was drafted by the Cardinals in 1988 and played in St. Louis from 1992 to 1998. He watched a pregame ceremony Tuesday at Busch Stadium on a Dodgers' clubhouse television.

``I wish I was in St. Louis today to watch this tribute,'' Jordan said. ``That's one of the best ever. Jack Buck. Awesome. He didn't care who you were. He would talk to you.''

Clark played three seasons in St. Louis, his first in 1985 when the Cardinals won the World Series. He was looking into traveling to St. Louis for a memorial today at Busch Stadium in which Buck's closed casket will be at home plate for 4 1/2 hours.

``If there's a level above Hall of Fame, it would start with him,'' Clark said. ``He's one of the greatest of all time. I consider him a close friend. He helped me through a lot of times when times were tough for me. He took me to the side and talked to me and showed me around or patted me on the back. He was always there for you. If you're a Cardinal, you're part of Jack Buck's family.''

--Odds and ends: Lakers forward Rick Fox threw out the ceremonial first pitch and got a rousing ovation from the crowd. ... Izturis is tied for the major-league lead with nine sacrifice bunts.

DODGERS vs. TORONTO

Time: 7:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium.

TV/Radio: Fox Sports Net 2; 1150-AM, 1330-AM (Spanish).

Matchup: Dodgers LH Odalis Perez (7-3, 2.62 ERA) is second in the league in ERA, and his .221 opponents' batting average ranks seventh. He'll make his second career appearance against Toronto in the finale of a three-game series. Perez pitched eight shutout innings last June in beating the Blue Jays. Perez is 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA in his past four starts. Toronto RH Esteban Loaiza (3-3, 4.75) is 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA this month. Opponents are batting .302 against him.

- Brian Dohn

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

Switch hitter Cesar Izturis is hitting .329 batting right-handed but is not having the same success from the other side.

M. Spencer Green/Associated Press Box:

DODGERS vs. TORONTO (see text)
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 20, 2002
Words:1012
Previous Article:AN AVID GOLFER, PEREZ IS DODGERS' CHI CHI RODRIGUEZ.
Next Article:MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT.


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